Haftarah Vayikra: God’s Call
Isaiah 43:21 – 44:23: Isaiah knows what will happen to his people. He can see that they are sliding deeper into their confused ways, closer to destruction and exile. The prophet wants to imbue them
with an idea, an ideal that will empower them to survive the challenges of the near future. Isaiah wants to teach them the principles that will keep their faith alive under the worst of circumstances, even in exile in Babylonia. “I have created new worlds for you in the past, and I will do so again in the future. I will not focus on former occurrences and earlier events. I will look only to the future.” (Based on 43:16 -21) Why? Because this is the “people which I fashioned for Myself that they might declare My praise.” I have done it, do it, and will continue to do it, for Me. When I act for you, I act for Me as well. We are connected.
The prophet expects a cynical reaction, not only from those who will recall this message as they are being dragged in chains to Babylon. He knows full well that even his contemporaries will challenge him. He preempts their arguments; “You did not call out to Me. You did not bring offerings. Rather, you burdened Me with your sins.” (43:22-24) If you truly desired a relationship with Me, you would have at least brought some offerings, the same ones you bring to your false gods. But, you did not come close to Me. You did not reach out to Me. You did not bring offerings. You have not declared My praise to yourselves, let alone to the world.
Still, “I, only I, am He Who wipes away your willful sins for My sake, and I shall not recall your sins.” I can hear the people yelling back to the Navi, “So why are we in exile?”
“Remind Me, let us go together for judgment; tell your side first that you may be vindicated.” (43:26) Argue back, if you must. Tell Me that you are angry! This is a relationship. I do not need your sacrifices. I desire a relationship. We can talk this out.
“Your first ancestor sinned, and your advocates betrayed Me. Therefore I have profaned the holy princes; I handed Jacob over to devastation and Israel to rebukes.” (43:28)
Adam sinned. Abraham questioned. Moshe challenged God. God responded as a partner to a relationship.
The prophet offers some perspective. Yes, this is a relationship, however, “I am first and I am last, and aside from Me there is no god.” (44:6) He contrasts the gods of the Babylonians with God. Isaiah ridicules those who will burn a piece of wood to roast some food, and use another section of the same wood to carve an idol they will worshi.
Isaiah closes with a promise to those who desire a relationship with God; “I will have wiped away your sins and transgressions. I will have redeemed you. Sing glad song! Shout for joy! For God has redeemed Jacob and He will glorify Himself through Israel.”